Posts Tagged: California
‘Ag Order' for San Diego County expected to be enforced by end of 2023
Generally known for its steady warmth and picturesque beaches, San Diego County is also home to nearly 5,000 small farms and is an economic hotspot for nurseries and floriculture. But the great diversity of ornamental crops that dominate the growing region and complexity of regulations make compliance challenging for growers, some of whom grow over 400 crop varieties.
“The regulatory environment for the growers is still complicated and overwhelming because, along with the Regional Water Board, growers are regulated by the County of San Diego,” said Gerardo “Gerry” Spinelli, University of California Cooperative Extension production horticulture advisor for San Diego County.
To help growers with compliance, Spinelli is prioritizing education and expanding growers' knowledge. By partnering with organizations such as the Farm Bureau of San Diego County and the San Diego Region Irrigated Lands Group, Spinelli works to reach more than 1,200 growers, supporting them as they navigate regulatory agencies.
Formally referred to as the Regional Water Quality Control Boards, the Regional Water Board aims to develop and enforce water quality objectives and implement plans to protect the beneficial uses of California's waters.
A unique place to grow in California
About 10 years ago, the Regional Water Board created the Agricultural Order (Ag Order), a set of rules outlining how growers manage water discharge from agricultural operations.
The new Ag Order for San Diego County, expected to be enforced by the end of 2023, will focus on nitrogen management and groundwater quality. However, new considerations are needed to address the variety of crops grown by a single farmer, a common practice in San Diego.
Calculating nitrogen input and output for more than 400 crop varieties is not feasible for small farmers, a challenge exacerbated by the meticulous attention needed for San Diego's high-end specialty crops like ornamentals, native plants and specialty fruit.
Furthermore, many San Diego growers have limited expertise and experience because they are entering agriculture as a second or third career. Many have become “accidental growers” in that they purchased land with a preexisting avocado or cherimoya grove, for example.
To help address these challenges, the grower community is emphasizing the need for more educational opportunities that are accessible and relatable.
Equipping growers through education
Enrico Ferro, president of the San Diego Region Irrigated Lands Group – a third-party entity that manages water sample testing on behalf of growers – has relied on Spinelli's teaching to “bridge the gap” for growers, including himself.
“Gerry has been great because he has expertise in nurseries, but the educational content he creates is relevant to all growers,” said Ferro, who is an avocado and citrus grower in San Diego's North County.
Spinelli, who specializes in containerized production in nurseries and floriculture, has been instrumental in providing technical assistance to growers since he joined Cooperative Extension in 2020.
“I started teaching over Zoom since I became an advisor during the pandemic, and I try to cover different topics for each training,” Spinelli said, adding that he teaches in English and Spanish, making his content more accessible to the grower community in San Diego.
For in-person educational opportunities, Spinelli created the “Last Wednesday” monthly meetings hosted at the Farm Bureau of San Diego County, which brings together growers and other agricultural experts to learn from one another.
“We try to get our information out in creative ways and Gerry is instrumental in that. He's our primary source of really wonderful information delivered in an engaging way,” said Tasha Ardalan, program coordinator for the SDRILG. “He's proactive and is always willing to try new things, too.”
Planning for San Diego's agricultural future
Currently, the Ag Order is modeled around regulations for the Central Valley. As conversations and planning for San Diego County continue, Spinelli is supporting the Regional Water Board with information on nurseries and greenhouses in hopes that the final Ag Order will better serve San Diego growers.
“I'm trying to help others understand how nursery and greenhouse production systems function, and how and why they are different from an almond orchard or tomato field in Fresno,” explained Spinelli.
Michael Mellano, CEO of Mellano & Company, a fresh cut flower grower and distributor in Oceanside, feels the impact of the Ag Order and its failure to account for variability. Growing over 100 varieties of flowers, Mellano said that for several plants there is little scientific research on how much nitrate to apply.
“Farmers want to do a good job. We make mistakes and we try to fix them as quickly as we can, and we try to educate others on what works,” said Mellano, who is also a member of the SDRILG.
Growers like Mellano and Ferro agree that the farming community in San Diego needs to be given the latitude to solve problems within their means, an ability that requires an understanding of San Diego's uniqueness.
“San Diego is significantly different, and we need an Ag Order that is reflective of our differences,” said Valerie Mellano, SDRILG consultant and former UCCE environmental issues farm advisor. “In developing the new Ag Order, there's a huge opportunity for education and research, something that we know Gerry can easily do and continue to support us in.”
Thus far, Spinelli's educational content has reached two-thirds of SDRILG's 1,200 members. In addition to the live training sessions, growers can watch videos that cover topics such as evapotranspiration, irrigation distribution uniformity, water quality indicators and more on Spinelli's YouTube channel.
Since the Ag Order requires all growers to complete two hours of water-quality education, the SDRILG has agreed to apply one hour of credit to growers who attend a one-on-one session with Spinelli.
As San Diego's growers continue to leverage educational opportunities – whether it's alongside Spinelli, SDRILG or learning from one another – Spinelli emphasized that their success also relies on an ag order that adheres to a distinctive landscape, multitude of specialty crops and growers with varying expertise.
Climate Stewards course instructor inspires change in Butte County
Growing up in Butte County, Rose Brazil-Few has watched climate change devastate communities and ecosystems in the form of severe drought and deadly wildfire, including the 2018 Camp Fire that swept through Paradise. Through the University of California Climate Stewards program, Brazil-Few is taking action in her home county – and inspiring others to help.
“Seeing the environmental situation firsthand in California, every day I find a reason to work on climate action projects,” she explained. “It's the most fulfilling work that I could possibly be doing right now.”
As a California Climate Action Corps Fellow (a workforce development program affiliated with California Volunteers), Brazil-Few is working at the Butte Environmental Council as community sustainability coordinator. She said the UC Climate Stewards course she completed last fall – administered by the UC California Naturalist program – taught her crucial lessons she applies every day, especially on framing and conveying the climate crisis.
“One of the biggest takeaways is how to communicate about climate change while we're doing climate action work,” she said. “Sometimes you encounter community members who don't necessarily like the term ‘climate change,' but they still believe in cleaning up parks and planting trees for shade – so focusing on positive action will still accomplish your bigger goals.”
Brazil-Few will further amplify those locally rooted solutions and climate stewardship opportunities when she starts teaching her own UC Climate Stewards course this summer, through Butte Environmental Council.
“Rose is the first CCAC fellow to become a certified Climate Stewards course instructor as part of the Pathway to Leadership we co-developed with CCAC,” said Sarah-Mae Nelson, UC Climate Stewards academic coordinator. “This pathway is an opportunity for fellows to continue fostering community and ecosystem resilience in their communities as active Climate Stewards, once their official fellowship has ended.”
Since launching in fall 2020, nearly 500 people have completed the UC Climate Stewards course, which is delivered by 17 partner organizations throughout the state. Nelson noted that, in addition to the CCAC collaboration, UC Climate Stewards is also working with Sustainability Service Corps and SEI (Strategic Energy Innovations) Climate Corps – and looking into bringing the course to other states.
A 2021 graduate of Humboldt State University with a bachelor's degree in environmental studies, Brazil-Few said she appreciates that the UC Climate Stewards course instills a sense of hope and empowerment and possibility.
“I know some people who feel hopeless because there's such a focus on the doom of climate change – when in reality you can find so many programs and people in your local community making positive change,” she said.
In her community, Brazil-Few highlights the partnership efforts between the Butte County Local Food Network and area growers, the Traditional Ecological Knowledge sharing at Verbena Fields in Chico, and the continued growth of the community composting program – among many other projects.
They all illustrate a key point that Brazil-Few will emphasize as she designs her UC Climate Stewards course: a meaningful climate project need not take place at a large scale – action can happen, literally, in one's own backyard.
“It can be easily attainable and accessible,” she said. “And just talking about it with people and getting your community excited is the very first step in creating a series of events that eventually leads to a bigger impact on climate change and positive environmentalism.”/h3>
A typical day for Dee Keese starts with a 10-mile walk at 5 a.m. and her morning wraps up with a swim. Although Keese is in her late 70s, her daily routine would not surprise you if you knew what she has been doing for the last 48 years.
For nearly a half-century, Keese has been the 4-H community leader for the Palos Verdes Peninsula (PVP) club in Los Angeles County. A youth development program managed through local University of California Cooperative Extension offices, 4-H uses hands-on learning experiences to empower youth to build self-esteem and connect with their communities as emerging leaders.
“When you're pushing 80, working with young people helps to keep you young,” Keese said.
4-H has been a game changer in many ways
In the 1970s, Keese moved to the Palos Verdes area with her first-born son who had a learning disability. Others treated him differently in school, and it didn't help that he was the new kid in town. A neighbor encouraged Keese to enroll her son in 4-H.
“She told me, ‘You've got to put your son in 4-H so he can feel good about himself,'” explained Keese. “And let me tell you, it changed my life.”
In 1978, two weeks before her fifth child was born, Keese became the 4-H PVP club's community leader and has been in the role ever since.
While reflecting on her earlier days with 4-H, Keese remembered when most members were boys. Girls were not intentionally excluded at the time; clubs just didn't attract them. When girls eventually joined 4-H, it was a game changer.
“All of a sudden, the program shifted focus from solely agriculture and animals to include home economics like cooking and sewing,” Keese said. “Now, all my sons do the cooking in their homes. It's a good thing! Because we're moving away from traditional domestic duties, men and women are sharing roles, as they should be.”
The PVP 4-H club offers activities like archery, sailing, surfing and geocaching. “Everything we do is to help our youth be better as adults, out in the real world and in the workforce,” said Keese. “We're relying on the internet too much. Kids need to get outside and do things.”
Over the years, Keese has taken members – who range in age from 5 to 19 – on numerous hikes in places like Havasupai Indian Reservation and Mt. Whitney. She's taken them kayaking on the Colorado River and, these days, co-hosts old-fashioned card game nights on the weekends with other community members.
As a lifeguard and water safety instructor, Keese gives free training to interested 4-H members to become lifeguards. Training courses usually cost well over $200 per person. “If they're interested, I train them and they have another skill to use. And it benefits our club,” said Keese. “When we have pool parties or beach days, my kids are prepared to step in and help.”
‘She will help anyone and everyone at any time'
Ace Yeck, former president of the PVP 4-H club, met Keese 12 years ago and decided to become a 4-H member when he was in fourth grade, following a convincing conversation with her. “She just kept giving me opportunities,” said Yeck.
Currently a third-year undergraduate at Loyola Marymount University studying entrepreneurship, Yeck credits 4-H for preparing him for college. “I got all my community service and public speaking practice through 4-H. I remember doing beach clean-ups, feeding the homeless, helping out at the Christmas fair, and all kinds of events,” he shared.
During his years with 4-H, Yeck was elected to the state board as an ambassador before he went on to represent 4-H at the national level. “Dee encouraged me every time, so I kept going,” he said.
Keese admitted that her life is so full and fun because of 4-H. Her motivation stems from the growth and progress that her students experience. “My kids let me know when I've done something to impact their life. It keeps me motivated,” she said.
While thinking about the members she's had over the last 48 years, she couldn't help but stress how important it is that they feel safe. Keese recalls one student who is gay and had a challenging time getting his parents to understand because of religious and cultural barriers. “The family's priest called me and told me that this student felt like I was the only one who loved him,” she said.
“I can talk about Dee forever,” said Yeck. “One of her best qualities is that she will help anyone and everyone at any time. She wakes up at 5 a.m. and goes to bed at, like, 10 p.m. During that time, she's always helping people,” he added.
Because Keese comes from a different generation compared to the kids in her 4-H club, she attributes her successful impact to her ability to adapt. “If we want to keep kids in this, we've got to be flexible! And you've got to do things they like. We can't do things the way it's always been done before,” said Keese. “We have to be flexible.”
To Keese, 4-H is not just an opportunity to teach life skills or introduce kids to agriculture. It's a chance for them to build community.
“That's what I think my generation does well, having grown up in the '50s and '60s,” Keese said. “We're all about that communal living.”
Ibrahim Yaaseen, member of the Palos Verdes Peninsula (PVP) 4-H club, grabs a hard hat and places it on top of his head. He then reaches for a bright orange safety vest and goggles to complete his safety gear outfit before joining the rest of his club members who are dressed the same.
The 4-H Youth Development Program of Los Angeles is already thinking about the future of water management and turned to the West Basin Municipal Water District in El Segundo to gain a deeper understanding of the precious resource we often take for granted.
The University of California 4-H Youth Development Program is managed through local Cooperative Extension offices. Through hands-on learning experiences, 4-H empowers youth to reach their full potential and enables them to build self-esteem, connect with their community and emerge as leaders.
Dee Keese, community club leader for the PVP 4-H club, coordinated an exclusive and interactive tour of West Basin's Edward C. Little Water Recycling Facility for the club's monthly marine biology meeting in December 2022.
Eager to inspire a stronger appreciation for water, Janel Ancayan, the West Basin's education coordinator, challenged the youth to build their own water filters using materials including fabric, a strainer, and a funnel. Since no specific directions were given, the activity challenged each student's science and engineering skills, such as carrying out an investigation, designing a solution, and communicating information with team members.
During the tour, students saw firsthand the impressive equipment and essential staff members that help to produce nearly 40 million gallons of recycled water each day. At the end of the day, students left with a deeper understanding of water resources and felt empowered to do their part to conserve water sources.
“We learned that recycling water helps to conserve our limited water supply and improves the environmental condition of our coastal waters,” said Yaaseen. “We ultimately learned a great deal about how to conserve water for future generations and that water conservation is one of the most important elements in combating climate change.”
Though Keese has volunteered as community club leader for 48 years, this is only the second time she has partnered with the West Basin. “I like to mix it up,” she said. “I'm always looking for community organizations and local businesses to partner with because these are places that the kids will likely interact with since they're nearby.”
Regardless, it's leaders like Keese and programs like 4-H that encourage water stewards like Ancayan. “I'm always so humbled and inspired when teachers make it a point to come out and visit our facility. In Southern California especially, [water] is not something we think about,” Ancayan said.
Even in a drought, water continues to flow from our faucets allowing us to shower, wash dishes or water the lawn. It's no wonder why water conservation is not always top of mind, especially for consumers. Educating the public, and targeting the younger generation, however, is a great start to prepare for the future.
West Basin offers a variety of educational programs that focus on different age groups. Many of them involve hands-on learning like the Teach and Test volunteer program, a partnership with the Surfrider Foundation, where high school students test samples of coastal water for bacteria, and then publicly share their findings to contribute to water quality monitoring in the area.
According to Yaaseen, the time spent with Ancayan at the West Basin was “one-of-a-kind” and provided a “golden opportunity” to learn why water recycling facilities are important. Ancayan hopes that her time spent with students ultimately influences them to consider a career in water.
“It's not a glamorous job but I'm really passionate about the next generation of water workers,” she said. “I hope that once they see the engineering, the excitement of these scientists that work in our laboratory and everything in between, that they start to think about water as a future career path.”
For those interested in joining 4-H, visit https://4h.ucanr.edu/Members/
To read this story in Spanish, please visit:
Programas 4-H de Los Ángeles forman a la futura generación de administradores de los recursos hídricos
University of California Cooperative Extension has recently expanded their team of fire advisors and staff. This new group of UCCE fire professionals is interested in learning about the concerns of the communities that UCCE serves, as well as the natural resource professionals already working to address these issues.
Results from this survey will enhance the team's ability to partner with residents, landowners, agencies, academics, and other organizations to reduce California's vulnerability to wildfires. These new advisors will also share survey results with UCCE colleagues throughout the state, who already provide important fire-related programming across diverse landscapes and audiences.
"Wildfires will continue to affect all Californians, either directly or indirectly," said Katie Low, UCCE statewide fire coordinator. "It's invaluable to have the input of as many people as possible to guide the development of our wildfire-related extension programs, so that they can provide the most useful resources and information to communities across California."
The survey asks questions about topics such as:
- Gaps within existing educational programming and resources
- Challenges community members are facing in addressing wildfire risk
- Empowerment of communities to make property management decisions and prepare for wildfire
- Acceptability of prescribed fire and other fuels treatments
By participating in this study, you can choose to enter a drawing to win one of fifty $20 VISA gift cards.
To take the online survey, please visit https://bit.ly/UCCE_Fire_Survey.
This research is being led by a team of new UCCE fire advisors and staff. If you have any questions about this survey, please contact the fire/forestry professionals involved in this survey effort:
- Luca Carmignani, UCCE fire advisor for Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Diego counties, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Alison Deak, UCCE fire advisor for Fresno, Madera, and Mariposa counties, email@example.com
- Katie Low, UCCE fire academic coordinator for Nevada and Placer counties, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Barb Satink Wolfson, UCCE fire advisor for Monterey, San Benito, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz counties, email@example.com
- Ryan Tompkins, UCCE forestry advisor for Plumas, Sierra, and Lassen counties, firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about wildfire-related programming from University of California Cooperative Extension, please visit https://ucanr.edu/sites/fire/ or the Facebook page https://bit.ly/fireSolutions./span>/span>